ORLANDO — Spend a couple minutes talking to five-star defensive end Byron Cowart or listening to him conduct an interview, and one can’t help but notice the maturity and motivation he possesses.
His drive is to be the nation’s best football player — in high school now, in college next and one day in the NFL. All of this is not just a personal goal, but something he feels obligated to do.
“My drive comes from my mom, just coming from a single parent household,” said Cowart, who earned MVP honors in Saturday’s Under Armour All-America Game after recording four tackles, a sack, a forced fumble, a pass breakup and two quarterback hurries.
“My mom is a fighter. She works and makes it happen. Her goal was, ‘Hey, let’s move to Florida. I know you can excel in football so we’re doing it.’ ”
Cowart attended elementary school in Snellville, Ga., moved to Lakeland for sixth and seventh grade and went back to Georgia to finish junior high.
His mother then made the decision to move to Tampa so her only child could play football at Seffner Armwood, where he competed in three state championship games in his high school career and became an elite recruit.
“She loves that I’m making her proud and I keep working,” Cowart said. “I sacrifice a lot. I don’t really go out to parties. She knows I want to take care of her, but she’s happy for me. She was determined for me not to be like my father, who’s been in prison for almost all my life.”
Cowart’s mother also has a major role in his recruitment. He’s down to Auburn (Jan. 16), Florida (Jan. 23) and Florida State (Jan. 30) and will officially visit each school this month before making his decision on signing day (Feb. 4).
Cowart said his mother would prefer that he stay close to home, but Jim McElwain and the new coaching staff at UF — the school long considered his favorite — needs to make her feel comfortable.
“I have to take that Florida official for my mom,” Cowart said. “She wants to get a feel for coach Mac and see, ‘Who is this guy?’ That’s the biggest thing. And she wants to meet coach (Geoff) Collins.
“She was so tied in with coach (Brad) Lawing, and then she was really hurt when coach (Will) Muschamp got fired, but everything worked out. She likes Auburn, too. But the biggest thing for Florida is for her to be able to talk to coach Mac and coach Collins. It’s really important.”
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